Kidney Beans and Rice (Rajma Chawal)
By Kath Dedon
A few weeks ago I had never heard of Rajma Chawal (Kidney Beans and Rice), but today I offer you two versions of it! Both are delicious and I would happily make either one again.
I first learned of Rajma Chawal (pronounced “chavel”) when my sister mentioned she had tried, and liked, the recipe for Red Kidney Bean Curry on Smitten Kitchen. I still had some small red beans left from making Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice, so I used them to try the recipe.
I followed Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen exactly as she had written it (with the exception of using small red beans instead of kidney beans). I used the full ¼ cup of chopped fresh ginger; she had suggested using half of that.
Our verdict on Deb’s recipe? It was delicious! We both really enjoyed it, although it was much milder than most curries that I make. It was very flavorful and makes a quick weeknight meal if you use 2 cans of kidney beans or have some beans already cooked. You’ll find the recipe here on Smitten Kitchen.
Red Kidney Bean Curry from Smitten Kitchen, made with small red beans and garnished with green onions
Pleased with Deb’s recipe, I decided that it was definitely “blog-worthy”.
Then, last week I got my copy of Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking, by Vikram Vij and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala. I am such a fan of their first book, Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine and of their Vancouver restaurants, Vij’s and Rangoli, that I preordered Vij’s at Home last September as soon as I learned that it was going to be released this spring. I had kind of forgotten about it, so I was very pleasantly surprised when it arrived last week!
Vij’s at Home is a visually beautiful book, with lovely photos and friendly prose that makes you feel as if you are sitting with Vikram and Meeru at their dining room table talking about their food and the recipes. They take you into their home to introduce you to the Indian food they enjoy with their daughters. There’s a great introduction to Indian ingredients and they give suggestions for pairing wines with the food (Vikram is a certified sommelier).
There are recipes for seafood, poultry, and meats that look fantastic, but I found myself especially drawn to the vegetarian dishes. There are so many interesting recipes that are now on my “must try” list!
Looking through the book I discovered their recipe for Kidney Beans and Rice (Rajma Chawal)! I learned from their introduction to the recipe that kidney beans are very popular in India; Rajma Chawal is an Indian comfort food that is as well-loved in India as macaroni and cheese is in North America. Just as there are many versions of macaroni and cheese, there are many versions of Rajma Chawal. This recipe is Vikram and Meeru’s favorite version.
The ingredients are very similar to the ones that Deb used, but Vikram and Meeru use more of the spices. It definitely has more heat than the version on Smitten Kitchen.
I cooked a pound of dried kidney beans for the recipe, but Vikram and Meeru actually suggest using canned beans to make it quick and easy. They also say that you could use pinto beans if you prefer them to kidney beans.
If you enjoy beans, you’re in for a treat with Rajma Chawal! I highly recommend it. You can’t go wrong with either the Smitten Kitchen or the Vij’s at Home recipe. And I also recommend Vij’s at Home, if you’re looking for a new cookbook of inspiring Indian recipes to add to your collection!
Kidney Beans and Rice (Rajma Chawal) from Vij’s at Home
Kidney Beans and Rice (Rajma Chawal)
(Adapted from the recipe in Vij’s at Home: Relax Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking, by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala)
Serves 6 – 8
½ cup cooking oil (I used light olive oil)
2 cups chopped onion (1 large)
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1½ cups chopped tomatoes (3 medium) or 1 can (14.5 oz) chopped tomatoes, drained
1½ tablespoons mild Mexican chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
½ cup plain yogurt, stirred (optional)
3 cups water (more for a soupier curry)
3 cans (14-oz each) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
5 – 6 cups cooked rice, for serving
1. Measure the chili powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and cayenne into a small bowl so the spices are ready to go.
2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
3. Add the chopped onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is starting to turn light brown. This will take 8 – 10 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
5. Add the ginger, tomatoes, and the spices in the bowl to the pan. Cook, stirring this masala occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until the oil has risen to the top.
6. Put the yogurt in a bowl. Add about 3 tablespoons of the masala to the yogurt and stir well.
7. Add the yogurt combination to the pan. Cook for about 2 more minutes.
8. Add the water and the beans. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes.
9. Serve over rice.